God's kingdom is coming (1:15-21)
1:15 "For the Day of the Lord is near for all the nations.
Just as you do, it will be done to you.
Your deeds will return upon your own head.
The setting of this final section of Obadiah's prophecy concerns the coming day of the Lord. Part of this prophecy has fulfillment immediately in historical settings, but most of it refers to the Day of the Lord as part of the eschaton. Sometimes in Hebrew prophecy it is hard to distinguish between partial and complete fulfillment. One must never become dogmatic about a complete fulfillment of prophecy unless confirmed in the pages of Scripture, such as the prophecies Christ fulfilled in His birth, ministry, death and resurrection.
Even with prophecies of the Day of the Lord, for different prophetic audiences, there are different meanings in fulfillment. For instance, 30 years before the Northern Kingdom of Israel is taken by the Assyrians and the completion of the Exile is carried out, Amos preaches to the Israelites and tells them the day of the Lord is against them for their sins. In that context, the day of the Lord is exile, not the Day of the Lord in the eschaton. Also, Joel takes an image of locusts taking the future of Israel away and says it will be like the Day of the Lord, envisioning the fulfillment and enacting of the Day of the Lord in the eschaton.
Here Obadiah brings up the Day of the Lord, but he is referring to the soon coming destruction of Edom by other nations, not necessarily the eschaton. However, there will be inklings of a larger and bigger day of the Lord that will be the eschaton. As earlier mentioned, we must not become too dogmatic about these events. More than likely, they will be fulfilled in multiple ways and times until an ultimate and final fulfillment.
Obadiah says that the Day of the Lord, a day of judgment for the wicked and justice for the righteous, is already near. Most immediately, Edom will be repaid for its treachery against Judah and Judah will be king of the nations once again, an event that probably has taken place in stages throughout history, but has its ultimate fulfillment in the end times. Remember that the Day of the Lord is about judgment and justice, wickedness and righteousness, a moral reckoning.
The reason I remind us of this is because the very next line could be taken as the foreign concept of karma if one does not realize the moral element unique to the Bible. Karma has no moral framework. It is not about morality. It is about selfishly ascending to the next rung in the ladder in the next life. But this version of the golden rule of Jesus is written in light of the Day of the Lord, in light of God's moral vengeance for wickedness. The sin of the wicked will be returned to them upon their heads. God will be the one punishing. It is a retributive and punitive response. Their moral wickedness is rewarding them with the judgment of God.
all the nations will continually drink.
They will drink and will swallow and will be like they have never been.
Now an image follows the principle. A metamorphosis is happening in the day of the Lord. Edom has taken clear advantage of Judah and will be repaid with retribution similarly, if not exactly, in the same way. They have drunk on the holy mountain that belongs to God. They have taken their fill of God's possessions and people. And in the same way that they have abused Judah, Edom will be abused and experience as the victim the advances of the other nations.
The nations will come and take advantage of Edom, swallowing its resources and taking its possessions. The nations will take without asking and deplete Edom's wealth to nothing. They will swallow up Edom's vitality. They will treat Edom in ways unfamiliar and unnatural to Edom. Those friends are now enemies who do not show any mercy. They take full advantage in everything. They are different than they have been in history. This sort of statement brings to mind a fulfillment partially in history but more geared toward the eschaton.
and it will be holy
and the house of Jacob will possess their inheritance.
However, just as the nations are freefalling in attacking Edom and stealing its resources, taking all of its wealth and destroying it beyond repair, those who endured the treachery of Edom in Judah will be honored and put in the position Edom enjoyed as it took advantage in the siege of Jerusalem. Now in this same time as its brother nation suffers great punishment, in Israel, Mount Zion, the refugees will run to freedom from all bondage and care.
They will come, those who escape the judgment of the Lord in the Day of the Lord. They will live in Zion and be protected from any attack. They will be separate and holy, separated out from the rest of the nations that will be destroyed in the Day of the Lord. This portion of the prophecy is clearly pointing toward final fulfillment in the eschaton. Finally, Israel, the house of Jacob, will receive and enjoy their full inheritance from the Lord. They will know victory and they will relish in its spoils! As is often the case when God involves Himself and changes history's course, the tables will be turned.
And the house of Joseph will be a flame.
But the house of Esau, stubble.
Then they will burn them and devour them,
And there will not be a survivor for Esau's house," thus the Lord says.
The Lord will give Israel the upper hand and they will experience the winning and victorious side of the Day of the Lord. He will lift them up and give them strength and power over their enemies. Obadiah demonstrates this with images of fire and burning. He tells us that the house of Israel, will be like a fire, a flame that burns the nation of Edom.
Israel will rise up and consume the nation and take it as its inheritance and prize. While the nation of Israel will be like a great fire, Esau's nation, the Edomites, will be like stubble, which is easily flammable. The disaster that will follow Edom's demise at the hands of Israel will be speedy and unfathomable. Esau will fall quickly to Jacob.
And there will be no mercy for the Edomites, just as they showed no mercy even to the refugees and survivors of this historical sacking of Jerusalem. Edom will be burned to the groud by the strength and military might of Israel with no escaping and no recourse. They will be hunted as they hunted.
They will be devoured by the fires of Israel. They will be taken without ability to defend themselves. Many times throughout Scripture, the image of fire consuming or eating like one eats a meal is used to show the brevity of an action. It is clear through image and through the final statement of this verse, as promised by the Lord Himself who sovereignly decides all things, that Edom will not escape even with one person, the full brunt of punishment at the hands of the Israelites.
And the Shephelah will possess the land of the Philistines,
And they will possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria.
Yet Benjamin will possess Gilead.
Many territories are mentioned here and we have a fairly firm grasp on where most of these places were in Obadiah's time, but so often, cities are changed and built on top of throughout antiquity. The Negev is a name for the region of Judah and the southern parts of Judah. The Shephelah is a hilly country, a narrow passage in the northern kingdom. The Negev, or southern Judah, will take Edom to its south once again and control that land that has taken advantage of it. Those in the foothills will expand west toward Philistia, a land of Canaan owned by the Philistines, who originally were a coastland people, a sea-faring people. Those of the houses of Judah and Israel will also possess the northern regions and Samaria. The kingdoms may even unite to perform these victories.
The tribe of Benjamin referred to in this verse is more of a regional reference to the middle part between the Northern and Southern kingdoms. Ephraim and Samaria are in the most northern parts of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Essentially, Obadiah is prophesying either the return of the exiles to these lands and their counquering or winning back the lands that were formerly under Israelite control, or the remnant in the land, those not taken in the deportation will win the lands back and the exiles will come back to help them control these parts. Benjamin, the middle region, will expand past the Jordan river and seize the areas of the Transjordan to Gilead.
When these possessions begin to occur either by the hands of the remnants or the first returning exiles, exiles from all around the kingdom will return to help control the regions. This is a prophecy of hope and unity that will indeed come to pass after the exile. The exiles will possess that which belonged to Canaan, the lands taken in the northern regions by the Assyrians in the 720s BC. They will take back the land up to Zarephath, the city from which the woman who helped Elijah by giving him a place to stay in his travels.
Zarephath was a coastal city wedged between Tyre and Sidon in the upper north area. So Israel will once again control from there in the north, over to the area in Gilead across the Jordan, down to Edom and over the coastal lands of the Philistines. Israel's expansion comes in the day of the Lord when it rightly holds the land given as a promise to Abraham. The hope has yet to continue in the prophet's words, though!
He's not done giving rays of hope to the people. Even though the exile happened, or rather is about to happen, and it will be a day of abject horror, there is coming an even greater day in history, in which the Lord will not only return the land to a faithful nation, but He will also return the people to that land.
Even exiles who used to live in the holy city of Jerusalem and were taken to the farthest reaches of the exiled community the whole way to Sepharad will return to their home country of Judah and once again be in the Negev, the place where Judah is located. Sepharad has several possible locations, but most place it far in the depths of the kingdom of the Persians and Medes, who were the empire after Babylon, which also allowed exiles to begin returning to the land.
No matter how far the Lord's judgment in exile takes His people or how far they are pushed out of the land, they will indeed return and the land will be theirs again when they learn to obey the Lord and worship Him alone. It is when they live the covenant once again with obedience that they will receive back all that was lost in their pride and sin.
Where human wisdom would say, "It is enough to return the things lost," the Lord has an even greater vision! He does not just want to restore what was lost to Israel. He has a greater plan to save Israel and the whole of His creation. The saviors pointed to here mean more than just one. Indeed there will be a long line of saviors before Jesus the Savior comes to earth. Throughout Israel's history as they return to the land after exile, a number of leaders will arise to save Israel throughout the years.
But that word for savior also has the meaning of deliverer, which rings even truer to the idea of the Judges when we see the word for rule, which in Hebrew is the word for judge. There will be deliverers or saviors who will judge on Mount Zion, that is the land of Israel, quite possibly specifically the city of Jerusalem.
These deliverers will rule as the judges of old did, through judgments and governmental rulings. They will judge those of the Edomites and those like the Edomites who commit atrocities against God's people. They have been given authority from God to do so. The Lord's Kingdom will receive the benefit of these saviors and deliverers judging the nations. We look forward to the Day of the Lord, after which most similarly saints will rule with Christ in His millennial reign. The Lord's Kingdom is empowered and grown through such means. Obadiah looks ahead to the complete fulfillment of the Day of the Lord, and so shall we.